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Feb 20, 2014

Sticky Situations

This past week during my sessions, I happened to come across a couple of difficult scenarios that I remember learning about through my classes in graduate school.  They have made me realize all over again that, although necessary, coursework does not always prepare counselors for the real world!  For the situations below, I could give you a description of the appropriate steps one should generally follow in order to address the main issues involved.  However, I found the task of actually applying them to not be as straightforward.

1.     “I don’t want you to tell my mother, but I did _________ last night.”

Fill in the blank with something illegal and there you have it – a conundrum for the counselor. To make matters even more complicated? This particular client who said this is a minor, but will be turning 18 years old soon.  After ensuring that the illegal activity was not an imminent threat to anyone, my goal was to help the client come forward to his mother on his own terms, in order to understand that her involvement would be constructive and not as scary as he initially perceived.

2.     “Do you feel prepared to counsel children, when you don’t have any of your own?”

Fortunately, no parent of a child or adolescent client has ever asked me this directly, but the comment led to an interesting conversation among friends recently.  Those with children stated that they would prefer a counselor with parenthood experience.  Others claimed that since counselors are supposed to leave their personal biases out, it didn’t make a difference whether they had children of their own. 

What are your thoughts on these scenarios? Please share below!

Sadaf Siddiqi is a certified counselor with an interest in mental health research and its application to children and families. Please share your thoughts with her at

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  1. 4 Ahmad 24 Feb
    dear sadaf
    I always follow your article.they are great. May I ask question about your feild of study? and where are you from originally? I am so eager to have more connection with you and utilize from your experience.
    I look forward to hear from you.

    your sincerely

  2. 3 Maya Georgieva 27 Feb
    I agree that the first one is sticky.  Thank you for providing an explanation of how a counselor should handle it.
    The second one... I wish everybody knew that counselors are trained to be open-minded and set personal biases aside. But they don't. If the counselor does have children, they could disclose and briefly mention, just to connect with parents. If the counselor does not have children, they should explain about our training and ask open questions, just get the story of the client and reflect back to show them they get it 
  3. 2 Sadaf Siddiqi 07 Mar
    Maya, You bring up an interesting point.  I recently wondered if it really is necessary for counselors to disclose whether or not they have children in order to connect with parents. I would want to make sure the intent is to benefit the therapeutic process (instead of, for example, saying it to "win" the parents over).

    Ahmad, thank you for your comment. If you have further questions about my professional experiences, please contact me via the e-mail provided. 
  4. 1 Ray McKinnis 07 Apr
    When it comes to counseling, I am a 'minimalist'--I feel like all I need to know about a client is sitting right in front of me. As I heard it put so accurately yesterday, 'Any time you label another person (or yourself) it desensitizes one to the humanity of the other person.'
      'Parent', 'child', 'American', 'white', 'female', etc. All of these (and anything else I might bring into the counseling room) makes it that much more difficult to fully experience the individual I need to listen to openly. (Needless to say, I feel very troubled by the pressure to add 'multicultural classes' for counselors--remember the song, 'You've got to be carefully taught' referring to how prejudices are acquired.)


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